Auckland Nines: Hundreds of fans welcome teams

The ceremony, which welcomed all 16 teams, was held at Aotea Square in Auckland. Photo / Sarah Ivey
The ceremony, which welcomed all 16 teams, was held at Aotea Square in Auckland. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Hundreds of rugby league fans gathered at Auckland's Aotea Square today to welcome their favourite teams ahead of this weekend's Nines tournament.

The 16 teams were welcomed with a powhiri before treating fans to a Q&A session with the captains.

The inaugural Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines tournament kicks off at Eden Park tomorrow.

For the first time, 256 players from all 16 NRL clubs will compete at the one venue, playing 31 matches in a nine-a-side knockout tournament with $2.6 million in prize money up for grabs.

A capacity crowd of more than 90,000 fans is expected to watch the tournament, with the home team Warriors clear favourites.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown said the inaugural tournament would be "an absolute romp".

"We're so proud to be hosting this occasion here and it's going to be a brilliant, brilliant weekend."

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The Warrior's Nines team captain, Shaun Johnson, said he was looking forward to leading the team into the tournament.

"The boys have been really good. We had sort of a short week to prepare but we're looking forward to this weekend."

He was confident the Warriors could take out the tournament.

"Obviously every team that's come here is sort of a bit new to everyone and don't really know what to expect, but we're in the same boat as everyone else so we have just as much of a chance."

The Nines is part of one of the busiest weekends on Auckland's calendar with the Lantern Festival celebrating Chinese New Year taking place at Albert Park and Eminem's concert at Western Springs tomorrow.

- APNZ

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